When I was a week overdue, I went to bed stressed about my antenatal appointment the next day, where I was worried I would be under pressure to book an induction. I slept badly but, joy of joys, I began to feel some cramping and had a slight show in the morning. I still went ahead with a membrane sweep at the antenatal appointment, and the rest of that day (Friday) I felt cramping that eventually turned into contractions by the evening. I rang a midwife for advice and was told to eat dinner and go to bed as normal. I was awoken throughout the night by contractions, probably every 15 mins to half an hour. Each time I flipped over onto all fours to deal with the contraction, so my partner Ian and I both slept really badly again.On the next day, Saturday, contractions continued but progress was very slow. By teatime they
were getting longer and more frequent but I was dealing with them reasonably well, by slow breathing and either sitting backwards on a chair or going on all fours. I rang the hospital for some more advice and a midwife came to assess me. She found I was 2.5cm dilated which she thought I would find very disappointing - I was just happy that something was happening, even if it was a bit slow! The midwife told me that my contractions were still quite weak and that the baby might not be born until tomorrow, or even the day after, so the best thing to do would be eat a meal and have a bath. I tried to eat some cheese on toast, but I felt nauseous with every contraction and ended up being sick. I couldn't see how I would ever manage to sleep, so Ian ran me a bath to see if that would help me to relax.
Instead of relaxing me, the hot bath really got my contractions going. I stayed in it for about an hour, lying on my side for the weaker contractions and going on to all fours when they got stronger, with Ian pouring water over my back. Eventually I was sick again, in the bath water, so I jumped out of the bath and ran to bed, dripping wet.
Things felt like they were hotting up, and I was getting a little bit overwhelmed - I wanted it all to stop for a while so I could have a bit of a rest under my duvet. Thankfully Ian was very level-headed and rang the hospital again. The midwife (a different one, as the shift had changed) was reluctant to come unless I really, really needed her, so of course I said I was managing and we would ring her later. Twenty minutes later, after my mucous plug plopped out onto the floor, I gave up being brave - I wanted to use the gas and air and I wanted a midwife there!
She arrived half an hour later (she had been busy delivering a baby in the hospital!) and took her time asking me questions and examining me before she set up the gas and air. Thankfully I was now 4cm dilated and "very stretchy". The midwife even asked me if I had any preferences in my birth plan that she needed to know about. I said I wanted the cord to finish pulsating before being cut, and we discussed this and decided we should go for a fully physiological third stage. I was really impressed that she was so open to my personal choices - I had always expected the NHS midwives to be totally pro-intervention, anti-home birth, and she was completely the opposite.
Ian ran another bath and I laboured in there, kneeling down between contractions and sort of going on all fours, but with my hands on the end of the bath, when one hit. I kept bashing my forehead on the taps (next day I had a bruise!). At the time I did not feel like the gas and air was doing anything for me, but with hindsight I think it helped me to shut out the outside world and stopped me having any panicky feelings.
The contractions were painful, with all the pain (like an extreme heat) in my back, but I never felt that I could not cope - it was, literally, one contraction at a time, and I did not worry about how the next one would feel, I just enjoyed the brief rest periods between them. I suppose this was a result of the gas and air and the happy hormones my body was flooding itself with. I bellowed through contractions as making noise really helped to distract me from the pain and I had lost all concept of feeling self-conscious!
After some time (I have no concept of how long) I started to get extra pushy feelings along with the normal contraction feelings and these felt really hard to control - for one particularly strong contraction I felt like my body was kind of bucking and flexing all on its own. The midwife could tell exactly what was happening just from the sounds I was making, even though she was sat in the bedroom just listening in. She asked if I felt I wanted to push and I said no, but soon after I felt a sudden release of pressure which I thought was a bit of wind and diarrhoea, but I now think was my waters breaking. I once again jumped out of the bath and ran to the bedroom. Here I discovered that I could counteract the pushy feelings by blowing out rapidly so I did that for a while before the midwife examined me again (I think I was fully dilated by this stage).
I was ready to push but unfortunately it was then discovered that there was meconium in my leaking waters. There was both dark and green meconium, indicating that it been passed twice, once a while ago and once recently. I remember saying to the midwife "So this means we've got to go to hospital does it" and although I knew I could always refuse to transfer, I would have done it if the baby's safety had been at risk. However I am eternally grateful that the midwife took a wait-and-see approach. She knew I was fairly close to delivering and hoped that the second stage would be quick enough that transfer to hospital would be impractical. Instead she monitored the baby's heartbeat between contractions, called the hospital to inform them of the situation, and called a second midwife.
The midwife was great during the second stage - she acted really excited and kept telling me how soon I'd have my baby, and that really raised my spirits. I did all my pushing at the side of my bed, leaning forwards on the bed with my knees on the floor. I worked as hard as I could because I wanted to get that baby out quickly to prevent a hospital transfer. Pushing through contractions was much less painful than the first stage and I even gave up using the gas and air towards the end because I just didn't need it. Even the much feared "ring of fire" was really not bad.
I do not know how long the second stage lasted (maybe an hour?) but the midwife did eventually call for an ambulance for back-up in case there was a problem with the baby due to the meconium. I think she did this to prove that she was minimising risk and following the correct procedure, rather than because she was actually worried. However the baby's heartbeat never wavered and finally she arrived at 4:11 on Sunday morning, screaming and all pink apart from her blue feet. Her apgar scores were 10 and 10, so she was certainly not distressed!
We waited for the umbilical cord to stop pulsating before Ian cut the cord and I delivered the placenta naturally. The total length of active labour was recorded as 5 hours 25 minutes including a 25 minute third stage, so it was really quick for a first labour, although that figure belies the fact that I was in the latent stages of labour for over 24 hours beforehand.
We waved goodbye to the ambulance men who had been waiting downstairs, then I had a lovely warm bath and even washed my hair while the midwives cleared up and changed the bedsheets. Then I got into bed, breastfed our new baby girl and received a couple of stitches in a minor tear (I did not feel the tear and could not even feel the stitches). The second midwife stayed with us for another hour to check everything was OK - I was incredibly happy and full of energy - and together we decided to call the baby Iris. Once she had gone Ian, Iris and I slept soundly until the next morning.
To anybody considering a home delivery for their first baby, I would thoroughly recommend it providing you are confident in your body's ability to give birth. I read a lot about the process of birth and strategies for coping with pain, but in the end I went completely on instinct and I really felt that my body knew what to do. I think that being at home helped me to feel more in control of my labour, allowing me to move around as I wanted and to feel uninhibited in making as much noise as I needed. I never felt that I could not cope, and I can honestly say that I had a totally positive experience of childbirth. I am still proud that I managed just with gas and air and succeeded in giving birth at home. By the next day I already knew that I would be happy to do it all again, in exactly the same way, some time in the future.
Meconium in the waters - what does it mean? Should you go to hospital?
Fathers and home birth - fathers' feelings about the birth, and how they can help.
Pain relief - what are your options at home?
First Babies and homebirth
Transferring to hospital - why it might be advised.
Overdue - but still want a homebirth? When is 'postdates' risky?
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Homebirth UK email group
Home Birth Stories
Home Birth Reference Page